- Corporations are falling short when it comes to hiring individuals with disabilities to meet their talent needs, research by the National Organization on Disability (NOD) found. NOD's 2019 Disability Employment Tracker showed that despite the acute talent shortage in today's labor market, employers still aren't connecting with the 20 million people with disabilities who are eager to work. NOD, which advises large employers on how to create more inclusive work environments for people with disabilities, polled 200 U.S. companies, 40% of which are Fortune 500 with a collective total of 9.5 million employees.
- Although most respondents (98%) said they publicly promote diversity in general, that percentage drops to 76% for promoting diversity for people with disabilities. Eighty-nine percent of respondents maintain employee resource groups (ERGs), but only 64% have comparable ERGs for disability. When hiring on college campuses, only 51% of respondents focus on recruiting students with disabilities, and only 42% develop internships for the same population.
- "The Tracker very clearly shows that the various approaches to hiring people with disabilities all fall to the bottom of the list, despite how frequently companies tell us that hiring is their biggest goal," Felicia Nurmsen, NOD's managing director of Employer Services, stated in a media release. "This may be because some companies don't know how to approach targeted hiring, while others feel like they might not be ‘inclusive enough' yet to start."
In 2018, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that while unemployment for people with disabilities fell to 8%, it remains markedly higher than the unemployment rate for the general population, which currently is 3.6%. Only about 19% of people with a disability are currently employed, compared to near 66% of people without disabilities, according to BLS data.
NOD's report showed that not only are some corporations with sizable staffs failing people with disabilities in their recruiting efforts, but they're also failing to provide sufficient internal support, like ERGs, for this population of workers. Black workers with disabilities, in particular, lost gains they made in employment, according to a report from the Institute on Disability at the University of New Hampshire. For this reason, more experts say that employers need to understand intersectionality and how employees' identities can impact their experience at work.
Employment experts recommend five steps for improving inclusivity for people with disabilities:
- Make accessibility a priority;
- Value flexibility by rethinking how jobs might be done differently;
- Represent all employees, including people with disabilities, in marketing campaigns;
- Embrace storytelling by encouraging those with disabilities to share their experiences; and,
- Create a culture of learning to prepare people with disabilities for their jobs and train managers in how to supervise them.